In a rather complicated lawsuit featuring Dr. Minotty, the Defendant, being sued in a shareholder derivative action by the company he created, the Florida Eye Institute, and, individually, by three doctors who owned stock in the Florida Eye Institute, for (1) breach of fiduciary duty, (2) securities fraud, (3) common law fraud, (4) illegal interception of communications (see Sec. 934.04, Fla. Stat.), (5) tortuous interference with business relationships, (6) invasion of privacy, and (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Plaintiffs sought to amend their complaint on the eve of trial to include claims for punitive damages.
The trial court denied the motion as untimely except for punitive damages under the interception of communications claim, allowing a punitive damages claim on that count alone because, under the statute, the trial court reasoned, punitive damages were “practically automatic”.
Following a jury trial lasting “weeks,” judgment was entered against Dr. Minotty in the amount of $2,000,000 to be split between the three doctors and $8,000,000 to the Florida Eye Institute. Dr. Minotty appealed the verdict and the Plaintiffs filed a cross-appeal challenging the trial court’s denial of their motion to amend their respective complaints to include claims for punitive damages.
While portions of the jury verdict were overturned, we address the Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaints to include claims for punitive damages.
The 4th DCA upheld the trial court’s decision finding that, pursuant to Rule 1.190(f), Fla. R. Civ. Pro., the Plaintiffs needed to provide at least 20 days notice of their intent to seek punitive damages. Having not provided 20 days notice, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying their motion.